Note: This article was updated with a corrected Bible verse for Liwliwa T. Robledo and a response from Harvey Tukutau.
Compiled by Charmaine Robledo
Director of Communications, Mountain Sky Area of The United Methodist Church
The Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone Conference delegations to the 2016 General and Western Jurisdictional conferences are preparing to attend the international event in May, and the Western Jurisdiction gathering in July. The delegates have met regularly within their own conferences and jointly as Mountain Sky Area, discussing legislation in the Advance Daily Christian Advocate (ADCA)
and discerning the future of The United Methodist Church.
As they prepare to participate in the visioning work of The United Methodist Church, the delegates were asked to respond to two questions:
What is your hope for General Conference?
Why were you called to serve on the delegation?
"I have served in a variety of capacities in the Church over the past eight years including member of the Conference Council on Youth Ministries, Board of Stewards, and imagine team. Additionally, four years ago I was the first lay reserve to General Conference, and two years ago I was the youth delegate from the Western Jurisdiction to the Global Young People’s Convocation and legislative Assembly. These experiences guide me thinking and understanding of our Church. My hope for General Conference is for us to find unity around our commonalities and have understanding about out differences. The delegates of the General Conference represent about 7.5 million people around the world from different cultures, beliefs, and thoughts, it is improbable for us to come to a unanimous decision on almost anything. However, if we can hold close what makes us the same, and seek to learn more and understand what makes us different, I believe that we can still have a fruitful General Conference."
-Doug Palmer, Longs Peak UMC, Longmont, Colorado
"The United Methodist Church has nurtured me all of my life. Raised in a church in Illinois, attending Illinois Wesleyan University, and Southern Methodist University have all deepened my connections to the church I love. My calling to General Conference has been to work to strengthen this church that has shaped my life with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to my deep commitments to the church, I bring years of experience, countless connections across the denomination, and various opportunities to lead the church. My greatest hope is that we can find a way as a denomination to stay together in our diversity, to strengthen our witness because of our differences, and to let the love of God shine through all we say and do. I pray that the Spirit of God will break loose on all of us gathered in Portland, and that same Spirit will grant us a vision of who we are to be as a people called United Methodist."
-The Rev. Kent Ingram, First UMC, Colorado Springs, Colorado
"My hope for the General Conference is that we can discern God’s spirit moving through us to be a worldwide inclusive church that not only experiences God’s grace but shares this grace to all. We must learn from the hurting, divisive and painful dialogue of the past and recognize that God shares grace to all, each of us have been given gifts of the Spirit and each of us are to use these gifts to be the ministers to a world in need – the Body of Christ in action. I look forward to this being an “enabling” event, a recharging of our vision and mission which can be carried to our local churches as part of the transformation process through God’s grace acting in our local communities and homes. I think the calling is a continuation of my faith journey – through the life filled with being involved in local church leadership, to the loss of my sister in the Air Force, Pastor Esther Angel’s nudges and spiritual guidance, the Emmaus Community and the Upper Room’s Spiritual Formation Academy. The General Conference and Western Jurisdiction Conference are a step that I think lives out the mission of “...make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world...". The key is sharing the global community with our local church people and hopefully open doors to their own communities and their own faith journeys."
-Don McCammon, First UMC, Missoula, Montana
"I believe God's grace is sufficient to see the people called Methodist through the difficult discussions, votes, and discernment ahead. I believe there is a way forward that allows the Church to remain in relationship while following God's call to love all people by removing the horrible Disciplinary language about sexuality and marriage. I have hope for a denominational structure that is just and connectional; open to ministry to, with, and by GLBTQ persons, and a renewed commitment to leading the world in following Christ's radical love. The ministry of the people called Methodist is transforming lives and the world. And we can only continue to do so by faithfully and humbly seeking God's will as a denomination. I am uniquely gifted for this work with the energy and tenacity, knowledge of parliamentary procedure, and persuasive extemporaneous speaking required to successfully participate in 10 days of demanding work. These gifts are directed by my love of God, love of ministry in the local church, and desire to carry forward a denomination I love."
-The Rev. Brad Laurvick, Highlands UMC, Denver, Colorado
"I hope we shall reorganize our national and international church for the 21st century. I cannot tell you all the depth of my frustration at the Judicial Council destroying all the good work we finally finished in Tampa, while leaving a budget designed to work with a leaner organization in place. We need to do better. I was probably called by my peers since I have been Conference Lay Leader and they know me. The interior question is why did God call me. I hope that He called me to contribute the gifts He has given me for the growth and effectiveness of our ministries through our organized church."
-Peg Plimpton, First UMC, Missoula, Montana
"My hope for the General Conference is that we will recognize the value of the voices that we are excluding from the table. I hope that our faithful understanding of scripture in the context of our Wesleyan heritage will allow us to see the beauty of diversity. And that by leaning on our understandings of tradition, experience, and reason, we will move forward from General Conference not only 'yet, alive' but thriving in our mission to transform the world. I believe the best potential for our church comes in relationship, dialogue, and connectionalism. In our current system, General Conference simultaneously breeds these opportunities and squelches them. I feel that serving on the delegation offers me a chance to find ways for us to encourage the best of what our denomination can offer, even in the midst of the politics and Roberts Rules of Order."
-The Rev. Megan Armstrong, Christ Church United Methodist, Denver, Colorado
"My hope for General Conference to get a better understanding of the church. I know a few things about what goes on in our church but there is much more to know. I feel I was called to serve on the delegation for my youth. I bring a different point of view as I am the youngest and much younger than most in the delegation. I am also called as the future to be able to carry out church on into the future."
-Harvey Tukutau, Trinity UMC, Kearns, Utah
"As an emerging global church I pray General Conference can begin the process of seeing unity among diversity. We do incredible things together as a global church ranging from UMCOR, to Global Young People's Convocation, to the Advance, to Imagine No Malaria, and more. Our challenge as a global church is that we need to reflect that in how we operate administratively. For too long the church has been dominated by the the church in the United States in how decisions are made. My hope at GC 2016 is that we can see the transition begin to being a global church united in making disciples to transform the world and capable of regionally making decisions about how best accomplish this in our context. My call to serve as a delegate at this point in my life had a few factors. 1. For family and the churches I served this year was a time I could work to have the focus for General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference. 2. With my service on the Division on Young People's Ministry over the last quadrennium and my service in two other conferences I felt my connections at the General Church level were at an adequate level to help me be an effective delegate with supportive resources across our United Methodist Connection. 3. The call also came from a passion to see us remain a unified denomination with diversity in belief. We are a big tent church. This is a huge advantage on the world stage for us to communicate with multiple audiences a message of God's love. There are divisive issues and most are around human sexuality, but I have faith that God can help us to find ways to break our cycles of disagreement. My call is to help our denomination becomes radically hospitable to all people and also embraces a wide diversity of belief."
-The Rev. Tyler Amundson, St. Paul's UMC, Helena, Montana
"My hope is much the same as others - that even as the legislative conversation happens that as a church we will come from Portland equipped to spread the love and acceptance of Jesus, our example. I was called to be a delegate to support the connectional United Methodist. I continue to advocate for rural and urban small membershp congregations and communities. I want the best for lay ministry opportunities and am champion for local pastors."
-Judy Hill, Kirk UMC, Kirk, Colorado
"My prayer for General Conference is that non-anxious, hope-filled voices will surface and God's Holy Spirit will break through in the midst of the legislative process and structures. My hope is that the General Conference body strives for unity as well as justice, replacing fear with faith. I've come to realize that I am an unusual clergy person, in that I enjoy and am invigorated by the work of General Conference. I see a connection between ministry at the local church level and the ministry at the general church level, and believe vital ministry at all levels is necessary if we are to transform the world."
-The Rev. Jessica Rooks, Cameron and St. Paul's UMCs, Denver, Colorado
"The Methodist Church has been a powerful force for good in the world, led by John Wesley’s theology of personal and social holiness. My hope for General Conference is that we continue as the United Methodist Church, and yet do the work to honor differences among us. The institution of the United Methodist Church has much to offer, and out of this institution come movements and networks, new ways of being the church, with new and different ways of serving God’s people. My call to serve comes from my lifelong appreciation for the church, from serving with people on local, District, Conference, Jurisdiction, and National levels, and from the desire to continue our strong Methodist heritage."
-Margaret Hotze, First UMC, Fort Collins, Colorado
"My hope for General Conference is to see the church remains in communal and unity with harmony, peace, and love of Christ regardless of our differences. As a first generation Pacific Islander who has been shaped by my tradition and culture, and has been exposed to and learned tremendous creative skills, cultural differences and challenges in cross-cultural ministry; I believe that I would benefit the General Conference. I come from a very traditional, conservative background; but having served in both conservative and more progressive churches, I believe I would be one of key agents to bridge the issues between both."
-The Rev. Sione Tukutau, Superintendent, Utah/Western Colorado District
"My hope for General Conference is a meeting founded in love. As a family we need to be able to discuss issues that bring pain as well as issues that bring change without being rancorous, hateful,vitriolic and ugly to each other. I despair the message that we send to the world when we are so divisive in our deliberations and conversations with each other. Let us labor together in love to find common ground and be generous in our forgiveness and our openness. I am still seeing through a glass darkly my call to serve at General Conference and Jurisdiction. I believe God has a plan, and I believe there's a place for me in His plan which will be revealed. My desire to serve is long rooted in my experience working as a member of my annual conference. In addition there are a variety of issues that I believe are critical to our life as the people of the United Methodist Church."
-Diane Martin, First UMC, Powell, Wyoming
"I believe the United Methodism is a bold Christian experiment that unites very diverse people from all over the world to share the primary focus of Jesus Christ message, God's grace. I hope General Conference remembers that grace underlies all we do. I hope the 2016 session focuses on what we agree upon not only on what drives us apart. Creates a more flexible denomination, emphasizes the ministries of the local church new and old, acts to open doors to younger and new people, recognizes and works on issues of justice and reconciliation and celebrates our growth as a global church. Since the mission of the UMC is to make Disciples, my call to the delegation was based upon a desire for find ways to support 'disciple shaping up,' versus 'disciple shake downs,' And I wanted to offer my experience in church revitalization and new church planting to help guide renewal for the work and fresh expressions of local church ministries."
-The Rev. Walter "Skip" Strickland, Superintendent, Peaks and Plains District
"My hope and wish for General Conference is for all delegates to seriously keep in mind the message of Paul as found in Philippians 4:8-9: Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and learned and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you
. These verses will guide their speech and discussions of critical issues. My hope for our delegation is to go home on a high note after days of energetic discussions, filled with hope and joy, knowing that the future of the UMC is bright and strong and God is in the midst of it all! My calling was not to be a principal delegate but to be a supportive member, an encourager, and a pray-er for the delegation. For me this is important as the General Conference is faced with divisive social issues, problems of scriptural interpretation, and threats of breaking up the UMC as we know it. I pray for God's holy interruption or intervention so that God's will for unity, love, justice and peace will prevail."
-Liwliwa T. Robledo, La Veta UMC, La Veta, Colorado
"My hope for General Conference is a gathering with unity in the midst of diversity, respect in the midst of rancor, and holiness in the midst of worship, business, and debates, differences, and disagreements. May Open Mind, Open Doors, and Open Hearts become reality."
-The Rev. Michael Dent, Trinity UMC, Denver, Colorado
"As a reserve delegate to General Conference, I consider my participation to be one of support for the official delegates, doing what they need me to do to make their job easier. If I can be of particular help in my areas of expertise and passion - Native American ministries, the church and people with disabilities, and Lay Servant Ministries - I am willing to do so. My hope for GC is that the Church will remain undivided; we can agree to disagree and continue to serve God in Christian community, healing from personal dislikes and prejudices and becoming healthy individuals in one body. May that One Body be aware of its behaviors that are viewed by indigenous people as racist so we may truly purge institutional racism from our sanctuaries and conference rooms."
-Glenna Brayton, First UMC, Grand Junction, Colorado
"My hope for General Conference is that we will trust in the redemptive spirit of God which invites us to rise above our divisions and work together to bless and heal this broken world. I hope we can reclaim our classic Wesleyan heritage, remembering that we do not have to think alike in order to love alike, and it is love that shapes our journey and empowers our witness. I have been called to serve this church for 30 years, and have been privileged to do so in a variety of ways."
-The Rev. Melanie Rosa, Superintendent, Mile High Pikes Peak District
"Much like Paul and the early Christians, we need to find ways to connect with our local and world communities to discern their needs, challenges and world view. Working within an attitude of grace, congeniality, and love, we need to find our common Christian values, celebrate our cultural differences, and move forward in a way that allows us to share our message of Gods grace as a force for common good. I hope that we can evaluate, and if necessary, change our structure and rules to honor our values as United Methodists while respecting the rich diversity in our faith. As a United Methodist, I believe that this denomination is in a unique position to reflect the love and grace of God in a country and a world that is often polarized by religious beliefs. The United Methodist values, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, and our philosophy of inclusion, if articulated and acted upon, can bring our denomination together for dialogue and shared goals. Our church can be a force for social change, for an increase in civility in public life, and for the renewal of faith for those in the world that feel a lack of connectedness and meaning in life. And I want to be a part of this effort!"
-Diana Huerta, Trinity UMC, Denver, Colorado